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~~Last updated October 2008~~

Horse Trailering Tips

My "tips" are a list of hard-learned factiods developed over a lifetime in the tried 'n true method of trial and error! Some were learned more painfully than others. Hopefully, if you read one or two, you may not have to learn by mistake!

Tip No. 1

Never open the back of the trailer door before you have untied the horses head.

Tip No. 1 learned the hard way! Before I bought my own trailer, I had to rely on friends to drag me and my pony around to trailheads (thanks Alison, Patrick, Shelia, & Doug!). One day, Sheila and I got to the trailhead and proceeded to unload our horses from her two-horse, straight-load Circle J. Without thinking the process through, I went to the back of the trailer, opened the door, dropped the butt chain, and walked around to the head of the trailer to open the feed door and unclip Gabe's halter from the trailer tie. Well, wouldn't ya know it, disaster struck!

As soon as I had opened the back door, Gabe had started to back out of the trailer. Two steps later, two things happened simultaneously: His two back feet stepped off the edge of the trailer (about an 8" drop) and his head came to an abrupt stop at the end of the trailer tie (about 18" long).

When he came to the "end of his rope" my poor baby panicked, threw up his head, lurched forward, both rear legs sliding under the edge of the trailer floor, hitting about mid cannon (shin on a human) and his head hit the top of the trailer. This scared him even more, as he fought to both free his head and his back legs. In a matter of seconds, my horses' life was flashing before my horrified eyes. I leapt to his head and grabbed the trailer tie, fumbling for the quick-release snap on his halter, which is made for such panic situations as these.

Gabe was flinging his head wildly around, thus making it an heroic effort to grab hold of the snap. (Ever try to catch a cat with it's tail on fire?)

Finally, after an eternity--my mind pictured both back legs snapped off mid-way and having to shoot my poor, sweet baby -- my hand was guided to the panic snap and Gabe was freed to continue backing out of the trailer--which he did at lightening speed.

All he suffered was two scrapped shins and a bump on his head -- we went for our trail ride, and he got right back into the trailer when we returned!

Tip No. 2:

Never attach the trailer tie with the regular clasp at the trailer and the panic snap at the horse's halter! The best bet is to put the panic snap at the trailer itself -- so you can grab a stationary item -- not one that is wildly thrashing about!

Tip No. 3:

Always -- no matter how hokey your "cowboy" friends think it is: always use shipping boots on your horses' legs -- at the very least, on the rear legs. Gabe's legs were bare that day, and although it could have been much worse (broken legs) it was bad enough, as the hair and skin on his shins were scrapped off down to the bone! Thankfully, nothing that couldn't heal--but I really learned some lessons that day!

Tip No. 4:

Always remove the lead line (rope used to lead a horse) while trailering.

I used to lead Gabe into the trailer, then just clip him in with the trailer tie, and leave his lead rope attached and coiled in the manger, ready for when we unloaded. Seemed no harm in that, and most of my friends did it that way. Where was the rope going to go, anyway?

Well, let me tell you, it can be quite dangerous! One day, (don't they all start out like this?) I was trailering my boy in an unknown trailer (a friend's) and I guess I had not closed the feed door all the way. The rope, still clipped to Gabe's halter, was coiled in the manger. Well, when the feed door popped open, the 10 foot lead rope fell out and was flying backwards, whipping in the wind towards the trailer tires!

I happened to glance in the mirror and saw to my horror, my horses' head hanging out the door, doing 40 miles an hour! And the lead rope was dangling from his halter, coming frighteningly close to wrapping itself around the axle and literally pulling my horse out of the tiny window by his head, aka the scene from the movie where the fat guy gets sucked out the tiny airplane window!

Tip No. 5:

Be extra careful when loading and handling other people's horses. You may have spent countless hours training your horse to load into a trailer calmly and stand still until you've got him tied, but a friend of mine suffered serious injuries when she untied a friends horse who then 'exploded' in trying to get out of the trailer. The horse tried to turn around in a two-horse straight load (usually impossible), thrashing and kicking and just generally freaking out. My friend suffered a concussion, broken ribs, and so much bruising that a large volume of her blood was pooled in those areas. Not a pretty site. Moral: Have the owners load/unload their own horses!

Tip No. 6:

The best way to keep your precious pony safe while trailering is to practice loading and unloading, hauling short distances, and unloading and loading again. Do it often. The more you do it, the more you'll be confident in handling your horse and your horse will get more comfortable with the process and will trust you more each time you ask him to load up. But no matter how many times you do it, treat each time as the first time in terms of safety, and checking all the connections, and driving slowly, etc. You horse will thank you for it!!

If these tips have helped you out, or if you have some tips that you'd like to add to this article, please .


Created by: Deanne Del Vecchio, of Tahoe Design
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Site Originally Created October 24, 1996. 

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